Honda's kicking the ball into the biggest open goal it can find launching a 77mpg 700cc parallel twin super scooter at the height of fuel price paranoia. But it's not the version that will attract most interest among existing motorcyclists, for whom getting on any kind of step-thru is like volunteering for puberty reversal – either way foregoing both their balls and ability to attract a mate. But they'll definitely be given pause by the next two 700s Honda will serve up in November – a naked do-it-all (pictured) and an adventure-bike-lite.
We're yet to see the adventure bike, but the roadster has been accidentally-on-purpose spied testing, and two things occur to us. One, it's a surprise to see how good a job Honda have made of disguising the fact it shares all the important bits with a scooter (however super), and two, this is a bike that is only going to get more relevant as the months and years go by.
With fuel prices sky-high-and-staying, mpg is overtaking bhp in buyers' lists of considerations and this long-stroke, low-friction new engine is the first from Honda showing full awareness of that fact. So what can Honda do about economy when it really tries? Even better than BMW is likely to be the answer that matters most when it comes to the naked bike. The Honda's claimed economy leaves it comfortably 10mpg ahead of the famously frugal F800.
And because the already very small parallel twin engine is canted 62 degrees forward, it leaves a lot of room left over for fuel tank. Sipped at a rate that matches the firm's own SH150 (non-super) scooter that's 300 miles from an 18l tank.
Using the new lightweight version of Honda's dual clutch transmission (DCT) nudges its relevance closer to motorcycling's ageing core too. Buying an automatic car's lost its old man stigma since DSG actually started making cars go faster, and the VFR1200 DCT's gone at least some of the way to doing the same for bikes. Honda's target market knows it's coming to their bikes as surely as fuel injection and ABS did to their cars, and secretly they're no more sad to see gear changes go than they will be 17,000rpm World Supersport-influenced redlines and riding positions. And where better to future-proof your ageing frame than with trustworthy Honda?
It'll even have more than the usual Honda helping of character, with the firm making much of its 'throbbing' low- and mid-range torque, warbling exhaust note from its uneven crank phasing and enough power to at least be not embarrassingly unquotable. Financially, environmentally, ergonomically the naked 700 is going to make a very powerful case for middle-market motorcyclists' money, if Honda can price it within reasonable bounds. It could be their Golf.